From the caverns inhabited by the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, to the ghostly apparitions of Allerdale Hall in Crimson Peak, to the jaw-flapping Reapers in Blade II, chances are something that Guillermo del Toro has created has conjured up nightmares for you at some point in time. But with his next movie, the appropriately-titled Nightmare Alley, he’s creating a different kind of nightmare – a noir movie without any literal monsters, but filled with characters who might be considered monstrous. Take, for instance, Bradley Cooper’s central Stanton Carlisle and Cate Blanchett’s Lilith Ritter – a carnival worker and psychologist, respectively, who are caught up in a twisted plot.

Nightmare Alley

Speaking to Empire in the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home issue, del Toro spoke about how his adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel strays differs from the former film version that came hot on the book’s heels in 1947 – and how he’s imbuing it with his own nightmarish sensibilities. “We’re wilfully allowing that movie to exist in its own space,” the director explains. “One of the things we decided is to not watch that movie again. We both liked what existed in it, we think it has terrific things in it, but what I wanted to do was, no pun intended, closer to a nightmare. It belongs to a genre only in that it deals with the underbelly or the flip side of the American Dream, which is always a nightmare.”

Empire – December 2021 cover

Read Empire’s full Nightmare Alley story in the new issue, on sale Thursday 28 October and available to pre-order online here. Nightmare Alley comes to UK cinemas from 21 January.

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